August 2, 2015

Ask Me Anything: Couple Trapped in a Dysfunctional Dynamic. {Weekly Advice Column}

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Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected].

I look forward to hearing from you!

~ Erica


Dear Erica,

A little over a year ago I started dating a woman that I was quite attracted to.

I fell in love with her.

At first our relationship was great—we are both over 50 and have had our share of failed relationships.

It truly felt like we had found each other at the right time.

I am a photographer and an artist, and my personality is full of passion and emotion. I like that about myself, that I am someone who likes giving and receiving love and affection…it’s who I am.

My partner is almost the opposite in this area and is very cold and not one to give affection freely, as I am. I’ve accepted that this is how we both are, but the result is we are often not communicating as a couple should. It’s like we are on two different planes, and I invariably feel like I am saying I’m sorry for things that are not necessarily my fault.

I keep hoping that she will show me that I am most important thing in her life but it never comes without my excessive prompting.

I have many examples, but let me give you the latest. I’m currently heading home to Reno from Las Vegas, where yesterday I photographed a major pop star. It was a big deal for me, and the shoot went great—I had hoped to see a text or get a call from my partner wishing me luck, or after, calling to see how the shoot went.

But I heard nothing all day.

Last night I sent a text saying as much, that I had hoped to hear from her, and she replied that it’s not her job to stroke me or make me feel good. She said she was sleeping when the shoot happened, and that I’m again using guilt to manipulate her.

This is always her explanation for being distant; if I mention anything I am using guilt or manipulation. Our communication grinds to a halt and I feel terrible inside.

I do love her and think we could make a good couple, but if our communication—and her coldness—is still there, am I wishing for something that’ll never be?

~ Out in the Cold

Dear Out,

It sounds like you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

You say you “accepted” the differences between you—your passionate nature, her reticent one— but you continue to rail against the dynamic they create. You have become locked in a a destructive cycle in which you continue to push for more, and she continues to offer less.

As it stands, there will be no satisfactory resolution.

Because the only behavior we can control is our own, if you want things to change, it will have to be you who changes them.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, try backing off and giving your partner a ton of space. Allow her the chance to miss you and to initiate conversations, visits, texts and phone calls on her own. As you do this, don’t obsess over what she is thinking or feeling, simply focus on your own life. Reach out to other people, friends and family, and pour your considerable emotional energy into them.

If, after having given her the opportunity to come to you with an open heart on her own terms she still can’t or won’t, cut your losses and try to find a better energetic match.


Dear Erica,

I am a 21-year-old woman dating a 40+ year old man.

I love him and we have a lot of fun together.

My parents do not approve. They think that just because he is divorced and has kids of his own that are close to my age that our relationship will never work.

I really see a future with this man. How do I get my parents approval and prove to them that my boyfriend is a great guy when they won’t see past the age difference?

~ In Love

Dear In Love,

The fact that you are so concerned about your parent’s opinion of your boyfriend speaks volumes about your level of maturity.

If your relationship is going to work, you need to find the confidence to stop looking for external validation.

Simply put one foot in front of the other and be strong in your decisions. Your parents concerns may fall to the wayside if they see over time that you are in a healthy partnership that allows you to grow into the person you are meant to be.

If, however, they continue to rail against your boyfriend, you might consider their perspective. After all, they have more in common with him on many levels than you do, and could have a clearer perception of why he might not be the one.





Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Renée Picard

Image:  Jason Devaun at Flickr 


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